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Wednesday, November 19, 1997 Published at 16:39 GMT

UK: Politics

Dobson: 'child care report a woeful tale of failure'
image: [ Dobson - will set up ministerial taskforce ]
Dobson - will set up ministerial taskforce

The Health Secretary, Frank Dobson, told the House of Commons on Wednesday that the Utting report on child abuse in care homes "presents a woeful tale of failure at all levels to provide a secure and decent childhood for some of the most vulnerable children."

"It covers the lives of children whose home circumstances were so bad that those in authority, to use the jargon, took them into care," Mr Dobson said.

"The report reveals that in far too many cases not enough care was taken ... Many children were harmed rather than helped."

He added: "The review reveals that these failings were not just the fault of individuals - though individuals were at fault. It reveals the failures of a whole system."

The Health Secretary set out action being taken including: incorporating new protections in safeguards for young people in prison; improvements in welfare safeguards for children in boarding schools; and setting up a General Social Care Council to regulate standards of conduct and practice by social service personnel.

Other action being taken included: reviewing the way courts treat children and other vulnerable witnesses to allegations of abuse; introducing a White Paper on social services with proposals to improve regulation; setting up a ministerial task force led by Mr Dobson and expert advisers, whose first task would be to prepare a full response to the report.

Shadow Health Secretary John Maples said the Opposition would give "positive and constructive consideration" to Government plans to tackle the problem.

"This is a problem that has to be addressed. The last Government began that process ... and we will support the Government in carrying forward that process."

In the report, published on Wednesday, Sir William Utting says there is a need to provide decent, safe, children's homes for those youngsters who are not suitable for fostering or adoption.

[ image: Sir william Utting - his recommendations will be looked at]
Sir william Utting - his recommendations will be looked at
Sir William was commissioned to write the report by the previous Government after a series of damaging scandals, such as the Pin Down Inquiry in Staffordshire, the Frank Beck case in Leicestershire and the paedophile ring in North Wales.

Sir William says: "One of the worst features of the past scandals is that children who ran away were continually returned to the abuser's care."

He says things have improved nationwide in the last five years but too often children's allegations are dismissed without further investigation.

The report and the Minister's statement were welcomed by all sides of the House

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